Telekom Electronic Beats

Remembering Arma17, The Club That Moscow Still Needs

My career started at Arma17.

I seriously pictured the next 10 years of my life there—that’s what I wanted to do. My first official gig was at an after-party on December 31, 2009. DJ Abelle, who’s sort of the ideologist behind Arma, told me, “You’re gonna play, but please don’t be worried. Just be ready.” But I was so nervous. I had played a few times when someone had fallen asleep or couldn’t play for some reason, but this time they put me on the lineup and gave me a three-hour set. Abelle had heard me play before and thought that the way I play music was perfect for people who haven’t slept yet, because I always bring the energy up and down. So I played in the morning on the Studio floor after Ricardo Villalobos had played on the main floor, and he was walking around the club. I was nervous that he would hear my set and whether he would like it or not. But I didn’t see him and I guess I forgot about him after I started. At that point I just focused on the music. Of course, it was a nice bit of foreshadowing, as I would never have guessed that six years later, Ricardo would remix one of my tracks.

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Back then, when I was starting out, I just played my favorite tracks. Now I know what to do if I want to fuck with the crowd or if I want to experiment or just be an entertainer. My mixing wasn’t the best back then either, and I didn’t feel shy about it. Today it’s a different story; I’d feel shameful if I can’t mix or if I play tracks that are hard to beat-match. The Arma years were a very important time in my life; I grew up there. It was a real school of survival, but in a good way. It was an experience unlike any in my life, and I don’t think I will ever have one like it again. I was so young and so open and wanted to hear and be with all these beautiful and passionate people together.

Lots of clubs and people think that if they book the number-one DJ or the producer who made the highest-selling record, they’re going to have the best party in the world. But I think this is a little bit of a mistake, because only a community of people who are passionate about music and culture can make a place or an event special. What was special about Arma at that time was that we were all a community. We were all friends, and we were all so excited about each act we invited, and we were really passionate about every single party we had there. The DJs were also very excited to be in such a unique and forward-thinking atmosphere, and whenever I would ask “What is this song?” the answer was often, “Oh, it’s just my friend’s record—500 copies” or “It’s a test press but it may never come out.” Even if I walked around the dance floor after seven hours of partying or after my DJ set, I always met interesting people. One guy worked for the government saving peoples’ lives during bad weather conditions, and I spoke to him about how difficult his job was and how Arma was the only place for him to come on a Sunday morning and dance and get all that shit out. I remember all these little moments and all of these people, and it makes almost every night unforgettable to me.

But I decided to leave Moscow in 2012 and move to New York with my soon-to-be husband. I gave up on so many ideas and projects I was doing at the time in Russia because I wanted to be with this amazing man, but you know the saying: when one door opens, another will open—or maybe five more. I wanted to live in another country and start everything from the beginning in New York City. When I moved here I didn’t know anyone or anything except how to DJ and make music. I lost myself in my studio, and I ended up releasing music on some amazing record labels and collaborating with people I would have never met in Moscow.

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I ended up losing communication with many of the people I knew when I was playing at Arma due to the move. I’m still in touch with some of them, but I wish I could be more helpful because I know that now, Moscow and Arma17 have a very big problem with competing promoters vying for control of the scene. Arma found a new warehouse space [after a fire burned the original space down] and it was going to have a party there in November, but the police came again and shut down the opening party before it started. I really wish that all parties involved can find a way to communicate, and I hope there will be peace and people will stop being jealous. I wish they could support each other, because we need things like this in life. Volunteers help Arma because they believe in it. A place like Russia needs places like Arma. People need a place to escape, to have somewhere to go and have fun in their own city. We need a place where we can dance and fill our lives with music.

Julia Govor’s latest EP, 5000 Moments, is out now on Budapest label Akkult.

Published February 10, 2017.